Westminster Abbey

Founded in the seventh century and dedicated to Saint Peter, Westminster Abbey is of major historical importance to the British Isles, for this is where all English Kings and Queens have been crowed since 1066. The only surviving depiction of the original abbey is in the Bayeux Tapestry, the current Abbey dates from the 13th Century (although it wasn’t finally completed until 1517) and is in the sumptuous Gothic Style. The famous towers on the western entrance were added in the 18th Century as part of the Gothic rival.

Just to the side of the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey has been as important in location as it has in secular and religious stature. Its also a burial site for several Kings, Queens, nobles and other important figures in British History. You can see the tombs of the Royal sisters and rival siblings Mary and Elizabeth I, Elizabeth’s adversary Mary, Queen of Scots is also buried here. Non-Royals include secular heros, Charles Darwin, Issac Newton, Charles Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer and Laurence Olivier, all of whom have been laid to rest inside the Abbey. Over the western gate, the empty plinths were filled with statues of 20th Century martyrs and heros, including Martin Luther King.

In addition to all the burials inside the Abbey, it is also a place of happiness, joy and new beginnings. King Edward’s Chair, the coronation chair in which all monarchs have sat and been crowned since 1308, although judging by the old graffiti I’d say many others have sat in it too! The Abbey has also been the located for many a Royal Wedding. The majority of weddings have taken place since 1919, when large scale and public weddings became the norm for members of the Royal family. The current Queen was married here in 1947, like her parents in 1934. Her sister, Princess Margret was also married here, and the Queen’s children, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne also took their wedding vows at the altar of Westminster Abbey. In 2011, the Queen’s grandson, and future King, William will marry his partner Kate Middleton in front of nearly two thousand people who will fill the Abbey.

The Abbey is open to visitors everyday except Sunday, when only worshippers are welcome. The Abbey opens at 9.30am and closes 4.30pm excepting Saturday when it closes early at 2.30pm and on Wednesday’s when its open till 7pm. The Abbey charges admission to those who wish to sightsee rather than worship: Adults are £16, students and pensioners are £13, those under 18 are £6 and those under 11 go free. Your ticket includes access to the Abbey’s museum, the Cloisters, the College Garden and St Margaret’s Church. If you wish to join a guided tour, run by the Vergers of the Abbey it will cost an extra £3.

You can reach Westminster Abbey via a short walk from St James Park and Westminster Tube Stations, being just across the way from the Houses of Parliament, this is a well traveled to area and many buses stop either at the Abbey or close by. You can also take a Thames ‘Clipper’ service to Westminster, then walk up past Parliament to the Abbey.

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